Consumer technology boosts mobile healthcare

Boston, MA. Speaking March 27 at BIOMEDevice, Bill Betten, vice president of business solutions at Logic PD, cited benefits of mobile healthcare. By 2020, 55 million Americans will be over 65. A day in the intensive care unit can cost $10,000, he said, while the expense of a mobile healthcare app might be $1 per day.

We must, he said, push to shift care from ICUs to assisted living facilities and the home. The penetration of mobile health technology will keep pace with the growing popularity of smartphone technology. In 2017, Betten said, there will be as many smartphones in consumers' hands as there are all types of phones today, and smartphones are amenable to mobile healthcare applications.

Evolving technologies will lead to better efficiencies, lower costs, and improved patient results, he said. However, he said, home medical technologies must be portable, easy to use, and connected—to avoid isolated islands of information. Therefore, the devices will need to support remote monitoring via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, or other communications links to support connectivity to the cloud and onward to trusted evaluators. He added that an accessory might also offer a wired connection or physically attach to a smartphone.

Physicians, Betten said, overwhelmingly support the use of mobile healthcare devices, but a slight majority of patients resist paying for such devices, so reimbursement will be an issue.

Also at issue will be approvals. Something like an app that lists symptoms for various conditions wouldn't require FDA approval, he said, but apps plus accessories might. He said the FDA is now approving about 25 such devices per year, with about 100 having been approved to date.

He cited several home healthcare device examples: AliveCor's AliveECG, the Withings blood pressure monitor, the iBGStar blood glucose monitoring system, the Airstrip patient monitoring system, the iStethoscope Pro (which turns an iPhone into a stethoscope), and the Tandem t:slim insulin pump.

In a 2013 BIOMEDevice keynote presentation titled “Keynoter highlights medical and consumer device convergence,” Betten presented a bell curve, with medical device manufacturers occupying one tail while consumer electronics makers occupy the other. The later pursue low costs, less-than-one-year development cycles, open-source software, moderate reliability and security, and volumes in the millions. The medical companies, on the other hand, find less price sensitivity, pursue differentiation through proprietary software, experience three- to five-year development cycles, require high reliability, maintain security in accordance with HIPAA patient privacy mandates, and reach volumes of about 1000 to 1 million units per year.

That situation still persists in 2014, he said, adding that consumer companies are poised to move much more quickly to occupy the large area between the two tails.

In any event, he said prize initiatives like the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE could spur on innovation on all fronts.

More in Instrumentation